The former owners of the Jersey Royal company have threatened the government with legal action, as they launched a major campaign with “dozens” of other aggrieved islanders demanding reviews, reforms, and compensation.
In a scathing message sent to Senator John Le Fondré, Tom and Rose Binet call for leadership and a “swift and positive” resolution to the longstanding and ongoing grievances of a large group of islanders’ whose complaints against government were upheld by an independent panel, but never acted on by Ministers or their departments.
The letter urges the government to launch a review into the Planning Department, compensate homeowners fined for owning property on the ‘foreshore’, whilst warning of an impending collective formal grievance being brought to the States Complaints Board, and floating the possibility of a collective class action.
Pictured: The letter was addressed to the Chief Minister, but also circulated to the Environment Minister (left), Chief Executive (third), and the Infrastructure Minister (right).
The States Complaints Board (SCB) found against the Infrastructure Department for enforcing fines for the alleged “encroachment” – described as a “ransom” by the Binets – given the lack of specific boundary, but neither homeowner has been compensated.
“…The State has not only ignored the strong recommendation to repay the money that it effectively extorted from those concerned, but in the face of public condemnation it continues to maintain the same Policy; apparently on behalf of a public that, by all accounts, is completely appalled by the practice.”
The letter also alludes to the case of sacked eye surgeon Amar Alwitry, who lost his job before starting work in Jersey. The case was upheld by the SCB, but Dr Alwitry was forced to take to the Royal Court when no compensation was forthcoming.
Pictured: One of the petitions demands compensation for those fined for owning property on the 'Foreshore', such as Alan Luce and Julian Mallinson.
“Not only are these cases where the State has completely failed to recognise its misdeeds but, shamefully, is now spending islanders hard earned taxes in an attempt to further defend its poor conduct. There are several other cases of a very personal nature, and the State’s response to them has been both inadequate and neglectful – at best,” it reads.
“One of the most disturbing things in all of these instances is that those in a position of power have completely failed to acknowledge the fact that, behind every one of them lies a human being.”
Also noted is the Binets' own case against the Planning Department, which saw the SCB find that officials had written a report about a property owned by the pair containing false information.
The letter concludes with a warning: “We are in the process of compiling a collective, formal complaint against the State, for submission to the Complaints Board. Whilst, in itself, this may prove no more successful that any of the other ‘apparently successful’ complaints, it will, at least, expose the woeful inadequacy (indeed, wilfully negative) response of the State for its malpractice.
“In addition, the possibility of collective legal action, in this regard, is also being investigated.”
Pictured: The letter criticises the government for leaving islanders in the costly position where they must pursue their grievances through court.
The letter – which was sent on 18 December and copied to Chief Executive Charlie Parker, and the Environment and Infrastructure Ministers – has not yet received a response or note of acknowledgment, Mr Binet told Express.
He has now launched two petitions to show the government the “strength of public feeling” on the matters mentioned in the letter.
The first demands an independent inquiry into the actions of the Planning Department, while the second, which is newly-launched, asks that the government repays coastal property owners who have suffered boundary fines.
While the letter and the two petitions focus on specific issues, Mr Binet told Express that the group of aggrieved islanders is “growing every day” and that they have many other issues in their sights.
“Having played no part in local politics, we’re now looking at the bigger picture and are aware with people’s discontent generally. Our tax money has been poured down the drain [on the Future Hospital Project] and we find ourselves eight years after the initial report with the public being asked to add to the 41 sites. We think it is a major insult to people’s intelligence.
“We also look at the amount of money being spent on consultants, and look at the relocations that are taking place and the rationale behind them and the sums of money behind them.”
He said, above all, the appeal is to “decency” and Ministers and civil servants’ “moral compasses”, and that one of the next steps will be attempting to meet every States Member to find out who is passionate about reforming Ministers and officials’ relationships with the public, which he says has so far felt filled with “contempt”.
Mr Binet says he has so far been “encouraged” by the responses of some backbench politicians, but hopes to hear from more.
The other big item on his agenda is to organise a large-scale public meeting, offering an open forum for islanders to air their grievances and – should they decide to attend – have Ministers answer them.
“What we’re really trying to do is draw attention to the behaviour of the States and find out who will actually do something about it. We’re appealing to the better nature of the States Members, and hoping to find out who supports us.”
He hopes the Chief Minister will turn up, and even, as he notes in the letter, take the opportunity to announce compensation for those hit by the Foreshore row.
He added: “Whether or not they turn up is a matter for them. It all depends if they want to face the reality of people’s discontent… What we’re really doing is asking those of decent moral compass to do something.”
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